Eastenders actor Danny Dyer discovers royal roots at Helmingham Hall in Suffolk on BBC One’s Who Do You Think You Are?

Eastenders actor Danny Dyer. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Eastenders actor Danny Dyer. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Actor Danny Dyer is famous for his cockney accent and working class roots but received the shock of his life when he found out he is a direct descendant of royalty on BBC One's Who Do You Think You Are?

Dyer's search through his family tree led him to the Tollemache family and their home Helmingham Hall in Stowmarket, Suffolk.

The actor, known for his hard man roles, was the first celebrity to take part in the new series of the BBC1 programme and was given possibly the most surprising family tree of anyone to appear on it as he was told that he was descended from Thomas Cromwell, Edward III, William the Conqueror and Henry III.

At the beginning of the episode, Dyer said: 'I'd like to find out I'm related to someone in the aristocracy or something.'

The episode started a world away from any royal connections, with Dyer finding out that his ancestors had been in a workhouse frequently throughout their lives.


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But Dyer's ancestors' fortunes finally started looking up as he found out he was related to landed gentry in the form of a Robert Gosnold who fought in the English Civil War, he was surprised.

He said: 'Robert Gosnold, sounds posh.

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'I'm hoping he's a proper geezer, like proper.'

He then visited Helmingham Hall in Stowmarket where his 11 times great grandmother and Robert's mother Anne Tollemache had lived.

The actor meets the current Lord Tollemache at the Suffolk stately home to find out more about their shared ancestor.

'The size of this gaff's ridiculous. He's got a drawbridge!'

'Finally some money in my family, I've been led to believe there was money.'

As Dyer was given more information about his family's past, he said: 'I'm not really a royalist, none of my family are, but not I feel like I wanna be.'

The episode went on to reveal that Dyer was a direct descendant of Henry VIII's right hand man Thomas Cromwell, the subject of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall books which were recently adapted for a BBC series.

A disbelieving Dyer said: 'So Danny Dyer is a direct descendant of Thomas Cromwell.

'I can't believe it, I don't know what to say.

'I'll say it again, I'm a direct descendant of Thomas Cromwell.'

The actor was shown visiting Hampton Court Palace, which he labelled 'the gaff', and found out more about Cromwell as well as seeing some paintings of him.

He said: 'I've got the Cromwell jowls. That man, I've got his blood running through my veins.

'It excites me a lot, although I don't know much about him.'

Although Dyer was born in London, he now lives in Essex and so was delighted to discover that Cromwell was made Earl of Essex in 1540.

He said: 'So in a way, I'm sort of the Earl of Essex?

I think it's going to change me as a human being. Not in a bad way...it's going to give me more confidence.'

But the biggest shock came when Dyer was told that because Cromwell's son Gregory had married Henry VIII's sister-in-law Elizabeth Seymour, he was actually descended from Edward III, William the Conqueror and Henry III.

He said: 'I can't be... A direct descendant from Edward III? It's stupid, innit?

'I just need to digest it and get it in me nut, and then I can move on with my life.

'I think I'm going to treat myself to a massive ruff and just bowl about with it, and then if anyone questions it they'll just have to walk away embarrassed.'

He added: 'Me, a kid from Canning Town, and this is my blood line.

'I cannot compute it in my brain.'

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